MADRID (Reuters) – Hunting Iberian wolves could become legal again as Spain’s main opposition party joined far-right Vox in vowing to end protections for the endangered animal in a bid to attract rural voters.

The People’s Party (PP), leading polls ahead of a July 23 general election, promised to reverse additional protections for the wolves in its manifesto published on Tuesday.

Spain declared Iberian wolves living north of the Douro river a protected species in 2021, extending an existing hunting ban nationwide. Controlled hunting of the canines had been allowed in the region until then.

PP’s manifesto said it sees hunting as “part of a deep-rooted cultural heritage in a large part of society”.

It pledged to “adopt measures for a balanced development of the activity”, but the manifesto gave few details on how this would be achieved.

The proposal aims to appeal to farmers who say the nationwide ban has driven more attacks on livestock. PP and Vox are vying to attract voters from rural areas, traditionally a key demographic for the ruling Socialists and PP, historically the biggest parties.

The Socialist party was already forced to back pedal on stronger animal welfare laws earlier this year, after an outcry in rural areas over its potential implications for hunting with dogs.

Vox leader Santiago Abascal has committed to repeal the laws if he wins, according to a statement on the Royal Spanish Hunting Federation’s (RFEC) website.

He also agreed to reverse recently-introduced tougher penalties for mistreating animals and to present a new plan on wolf population control, RFEC said.

Such policies had hurt Socialist candidates in past regional elections, RFEC President Manuel Gallardo told Reuters.

“It would be good for the parties to attend to the demands of the hunting sector, which moves around 4 million votes,” he added.

Some 297 packs of Iberian wolves were recorded in Spain in the latest census in 2014.

(Reporting by Corina Pons; Editing by David Latona and Emma Rumney)

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